As a 40-year resident of Asheville, it’s been fun reading the reminiscences. But so far I’ve seen no mention of the role of the French Broad Food Co-op, and that needs to be corrected.
When the co-op moved to Biltmore Avenue in 1991, the street was still mostly boarded up. There was a pool hall where Be Here Now would be housed, and Fain’s Department Store where Mast General Store eventually opened, but almost nothing else. The co-op was bordered on the north side by a forklift company.
Many people thought moving to 90 Biltmore would be the kiss of death for the co-op. Who would possibly come to a dead downtown to shop for food? Yet the store thrived and grew and became quite a gathering spot for those who were alternative-oriented. For many members of the 1990s immigration movement into Asheville, the co-op was their first inkling that this town could be cool. And other businesses, starting with Barley’s, Be Here Now, Asheville Wine Market and Laurey’s, sensing possibilities, gathered round.
The co-op supported local farmers from the beginning, and the FBFC tailgate market is one of the oldest in Western North Carolina and is still going strong. The co-op was (is?) the only grocery to offer only organic produce. It still does. And the profits generated by sales are still turned back in to the co-op, rather than paying dividends to out-of-town investors.
So I, for one, would like to publicly appreciate the role the FBFC played in helping Asheville become what it is today, and continues to play as the the type of business Asheville is known for and locals can be proud of.